This project is based on my dissertation research and is currently undergoing editing for publication with the University of Oklahoma Press.
My dissertation is titled “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Germany: A Transnational History” and was completed in 2012. It examines European and especially German responses to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show during its two European tours in 1890-1891 and 1906. It argues that the different European countries creatively adapted the content and message of the show according to their own specific cultural values and needs. By considering Buffalo Bill’s Wild West within the specific cultural contexts of the nations it toured, we are able to better explain reactions to it, including Germany’s astoundingly positive response.
“Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Germany” contributes new scholarly perspectives on the German reception of the American West and Buffalo Bill’s version of it by providing a transnational comparison. Instead of superimposing the current American assumptions about the show onto Europe, this study offers a detailed analysis of the specifically German reactions to the Wild West and argues that Germans responded much more to the ethnographic and romantic elements of the show than to the struggle and appeals of Manifest Destiny that secured its success in the U.S. By including a vast array of German secondary literature, the Wild West show is put into a larger national context that has not previously been made available for an English readership before. Similarly, the large volume of German newspaper articles that drive the argument in the later chapters comprise a research base that has never before been translated into English and analyzed by American scholars. Through the utilization of these primary and secondary sources, this study reshapes our understanding both of Buffalo Bill’s show and, more broadly, of the image of the American West in Germany.